Monday, April 11, 2016

Unmasking Drug Counterfeiters: The New Pirates of the Seas

Back when South China Sea was a backwater area for the western colonizers, pirates plowed its waves in search of ships and towns they could maraud and plunder. The notorious Chinese pirate, Limahong, became a sort of folk hero in Southeast Asia for having eluded the British Navy for many years until he and his dastardly buccaneers sailing a fleet of junks decided to attack Manila, which was then under Spanish rule. Although they failed to take over the city, the pirates remained in one part of the country’s main island for almost two years before eluding the Spaniards by digging a small river and escaping at night. Limahong was never caught and continued to bedevil the British authorities for years.

People may have a penchant for watching and admiring the exploits of pirates; however, when we realize how much damage and violence they commit, we awaken to the painful stabs of reality –especially when we are the victims ourselves. And this is the case of the new pirates wreaking havoc in Asia at present – drug counterfeiters. These elements ply their trade by dumping their fake drugs through the pharmaceutical chains and have amassed a significant number of customers, endangering the legitimate drug industry as well as the health of millions of people.

Under U.S. law, counterfeit drugs are those “being those sold using a product name exclusive of authorization”. Counterfeit drugs can involve either fake “generic products” or imitating brand names, such that the original brand or name is intentionally mislabeled or new ones are made to appear like the original products. Moreover, fake drugs can also include products “lacking or (having) inadequate amount of active ingredient, with the incorrect active ingredient, or with false packaging”.

The extent of the plague of drug piracy is difficult to determine, particularly in the developing nations where legal and economic controls are less stringent. World Health Organization recognizes this dilemma and works hard at coordinating with its constituencies to minimize or eliminate the effect this problem has on the general health of the world’s population. The Peterson Group joins in this fight against fake drugs. It has estimated that the “global sales of fake drugs (adds up) to $75 billion annually”. That is a staggering figure, considering that in a city, for instance, that has about 10 million residents, every person could be spending $75 annually if that city had only 1% share of that global figure. And that is pretty much what every individual spends on vitamins or other common medications on a daily basis -- 20 cents on the average. That is roughly the price of one multi-vitamin tablet that every ordinary person can afford to buy to provide minimum maintenance for a healthy body. And if the chances of any person getting a fake drug at the counter is 7 out of 10, then the chances of that person keeping a healthy body is greatly reduced.

If the extent of the fake drugs industry is so widespread, this tells us at least two things, namely:

1. That a majority of people in Asia and in many parts of the world are not getting the right medication they need (not to mention the right kind of food that they eat).

2. That this counterfeit drug industry could be an operation that enjoys some kind of protection from illegitimate and/or legitimate authorities. (If drugs can be faked, so with official documents.)

As in many instances of crime, corruption is at the root’s end. The Peterson Group, a non-profit organization, helps to make people and governments aware of this creeping worldwide problem. Operating in Asia (particularly Hong Kong, Indonesia, Jakarta and Malaysia), The Peterson Group is strategically located to monitor the flow of this contraband and its effects on the welfare of people for it has committed itself to preventing the illegal drug smugglers in Asia.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Falsified Medicine Analysis

Proliferation of counterfeit medicine market is a great concern to government regulatory agencies, pharmaceutical companies, health care providers and consumers. However, its percentage is continuously increasing not only in poor and developing countries but also in developed ones. Unfortunately, counterfeiting is one of the most underrated issues in the world that contributes largely to morbidity, mortality and drug intoxication of people of ages, religions and cultures.

One of the reasons why there is the domination of counterfeit medicines is the lack of attention given by the rightful authorities. Even with the strict policies, many national governments are focused on the smuggling of illegal drugs such as opium and heroin in their countries that the seemingly “legit” pharmaceutical drugs pass their investigation. Cities know for strict implementation of policies against smuggled drugs includes Jakarta, Indonesia, Singapore, Victoria, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yet these countries are also among the countries which have the highest number of counterfeit cases.

Only a few and only those dedicated in this special case give concern for the worsening number of counterfeit medicines victims in the world - included in this are the non-profit organizations with the ultimate advocacy to obliterate the number of fraudulent cases.  In their effort to eliminate drug counterfeiting from the main problems of the world, studies and reviews are being created because of this.

The Peterson Group, one of these concerned NGOs has developed falsified medicine analysis for years and has reported special cases vital in determining the total scale of the problem. Their falsified medicine analysis expertise is ideally positioned to address the highly technical issues involved in investigating the increasingly sophisticated falsified medicines or counterfeit medicines being discovered in legitimate supply chains. As a key tool in our pharmaceutical supply chain surveillance for counterfeit medicines services, our laboratory network employ a wide scope of investigative analytical technology such as mass spectrometry (MS), infra-red (FTIR) spectroscopy, RAMAN spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, gas chromatography - mass spectrometry (GC-MS), liquid chromatography - mass spectrometry (LC-MS) and more, to explore and assist in the identification of fake medicines.

With the assistance of advanced research labs funded by concerned pharmaceutical companies and individuals, these systems are already underway in determining the impact of counterfeit medicines in a region by region scale. Some of these methods  may take a lot of time to produce results but with proper effort and support, falsified medicine analysis, which seems too complicated in the early times, can be more comprehensive.